Cole Thaler Director, Safe and Stable Homes Project
Cole serves as the director of AVLF’s Safe and Stable Homes Project. He supervises the Saturday Lawyer Program and the Standing with Our Neighbors Program, among others.
Cole grew up in the upper-middle-class area of Bergen County, New Jersey, but his family struggled financially. In 1993, when Cole was sixteen years old, the bank foreclosed on the house he grew up in, and Cole and his family had to move to another town. Cole attended Williams College, where he worked in the dining hall for four years, serving food to and cleaning up after his wealthier classmates. During those years, Cole grew troubled by the stark class differences around him. After graduating magna cum laude from Williams, Cole worked in food service, in a vet’s office, and for a lawyer before deciding to apply to law school.
At Northeastern University School of Law, Cole was an active member of the LGBTQ community in Boston and on campus. Spurred by his experiences and observations of inequality and injustice, Cole decided to use his law degree to protect society’s most vulnerable. From 2005 until 2009, Cole worked for Lambda Legal, helping transgender people across the country stand up for their rights in court. After that, Colefollowed his heart to serve people living in poverty – first in a rural setting through Georgia Legal Services Program, and, since 2014, in Atlanta through his work at AVLF.
Cole believes that knowledge is power; that small acts of kindness make a big difference; and that we must strive for our vision of liberation, even when it feels unattainable. He shares his home with his husband and a friendly pack of rescue dogs and cats.
Erica Taylor Staff Attorney, Saturday Lawyer Program
Erica is the staff attorney for the Saturday Lawyer Program, AVLF’s flagship program. She spends her days recruiting and supporting volunteer attorneys who represent clients with wage and housing claims.
Previously, Erica was an associate attorney at Thompson, Sweeny, Kinsinger & Pereira, P.C. in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Erica brings a wealth of experience to the position, as she previously practiced in probate law, estate law, elder law, family law, real estate law, zoning law, and local government. In addition to her legal work, she interned at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education, investigating discrimination claims. Erica holds a B.S. in psychology from Oglethorpe University and a J.D. from Mercer University.
Staff Attorney, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Ayanna Jones-Lightsy Staff Attorney, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Ayanna is a staff attorney with AVLF’s Standing with Our Neighbors Program. She works primarily in the Carver Cluster, working in Thomasville Heights Elementary School, Slater Elementary School, and Price Middle School.
Ayanna obtained her B.A. in history from Clark Atlanta University. After obtaining her degree, she worked in education for the next four years. Ayanna attended Emory University School of Law before working for the nonprofit Georgia Legal Services Program for seven years. In that position, she worked closely with low-income communities in North Georgia and tackled unemployment, public benefits, subsidized housing, domestic violence, and elder care.
Staff Attorney, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Lauren Washington Staff Attorney, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Lauren is a staff attorney with AVLF’s StandingWithOur Neighbors program. She is basedin the neighborhoods of NPU-V and works primarily in Gideon’s Elementary School, Dunbar Elementary, and Barack and Michelle Obama Academy.
Lauren previously worked at Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins LLP and R. Gary Spencer, P.C. She received her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law where she was an active participant in various student organizations. Prior to practicing law,Lauren participated in the Teach for America 2010 Corps where she taught English, step, and dance.
When she is not working, Lauren enjoys visiting museums and participating in dance classes.
Staff Attorney, Equal Justice Works Georgia Housing Corps
Erik Provitt Staff Attorney, Equal Justice Works Georgia Housing Corps
Erik is a staff attorney with AVLF’s Standing with Our Neighbors Program, where he specifically focuses on housing issues in neighborhoods on Atlanta’s Westside.
Prior to coming to the AVLF, Erik spent 15 years in the financial services sector, where he most recently was a Senior Fraud Investigator with SunTrust Bank. His banking career includes time spent in Mortgage Sales, Branch Management, Bank Operations, and Corporate Training. Erik earned his J.D. from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. There he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award and the Renata Turner Public Interest Scholarship. Erik also holds a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A. with a concentration in management. He resides in Gwinnett County with his wife and 4 children.
Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Nekesha Whitaker Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Nekesha usually goes by Kesha. She’s a Community Advocate for AVLF’s Standing With Our Neighbors Program based in Slater Elementary and Price Middle School. This is part of AVLF’s focus within Atlanta Public Schools’ Carver Cluster.
Previously a family advocate at an early childhood education center, Kesha worked with families experiencing homelessness to find resources that lead to family stability: jobs, legal help, childcare, certification programs, health clinics, and, of course, housing. Originally a native of southern California, she moved to Georgia in 2009 to pursue a degree in criminal justice and sociology from Clark Atlanta University. While juggling school, Kesha also ran cross country and track. She also holds a Masters in Social Work from Georgia State University.
Shamyya – also known as “Mya” – is a Community Advocate at Thomasville Heights Elementary School for AVLF’s Standing With Our Neighbors™ program.
As a native of Atlanta, Mya has been an advocate for children and families for over ten years, serving in low-income communities. She is committed to and passionate about enlightening, educating, and supporting her community. Mya is dedicated to being a voice – and an agent of change – for the people.
Mya is a devoted mother to her four-year-old high-energy son, Karter. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, shopping, and spending time with her family.
Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
LaKeta Whittaker Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
LaKeta is AVLF’s Community Advocate based in NPU-V, an area of town she and her family have lived in for ten years. She works in Dunbar Elementary, Gideon’sKindezi, and Barack and Michelle Obama Academy.
LaKeta has a deep passion for her local community andhas served on the Annie E. Casey Community Investment FundBoard for three years.She brings over 13 years of advocacy for income-stricken populations and social work to the position. In her sparetime, LaKeta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Community Advocate, Equal Justice Works Georgia Housing Corps
Shameka Dixon Community Advocate, Equal Justice Works Georgia Housing Corps
Shameka is a Community Advocate for AVLF’s Standing with Our Neighbors program. She serves the neighborhoods of Atlanta’s westside and is based out of Hollis Innovation Academy.
Born and raised in west Atlanta, Shameka has worked in social services for a decade. She also previously taught preschool for nine years. She received her B.A. from Fort Valley State University. When she’s not helping families in Vine City, English Avenue, and Ashview Heights, you can find Shameka trying new restaurants and working on Pinterest projects.
Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Nikkiangela Cauthen Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Nikki is a Community Advocate with AVLF’s Standing With Our Neighbors program. She serves the NPU-V area and is based out of Gideons Elementary School, Dunbar Elementary School, and Barack and Michelle Obama Academy.
Nikki developed a strong sense of devotion to the nonprofit sector while working in an educational setting. The experience ignited her passion for helping children and families improve their lives.
As an “army brat,” Nikki was born in Germany and moved to Atlanta in 1997. She received a B.A. from Clayton State University. In her free time, Nikki enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.
Volunteer Engagement Manager, Safe and Stable Homes Project
Matilde Davis Volunteer Engagement Manager, Safe and Stable Homes Project
Matilde Davis is the Volunteer Engagement Manager for AVLF’s Safe and Stable Homes Project.
Originally from Gary, Indiana, Matilde moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University. She received her B.A. in African American Studies and Women Studies in 2009. After graduation, Matilde worked for five years with an asset management company that sells and maintains the integrity of government-owned properties. She is passionate about helping her community while working for a great organization. In her free time, Matilde likes to kickbox, read, and bake healthy treats.
Kenisha Carson Paralegal, Safe and Stable Homes Project
As the intake paralegal for AVLF’s Safe and Stable Homes Project, Kenisha serves as the first point of contact for those facing eviction, landlord/tenant, and wage claim issues.
Kenisha received her start in the legal profession in 2006 with Legal Services of the Virgin Islands before joining Atlanta Legal Aid Society in 2008. Kenisha has been part of the AVLF staff since August 2012. She majored in Legal Studies at Kaplan University.
Christan Rozzell Paralegal, Safe and Stable Homes Project
Christan is AVLF’s newest Safe & Stable Homes paralegal. In this role, she is tackling issues that incubate systemic poverty in Atlanta.
Christan has lived in Atlanta for 13 years and currently calls Vine City home. She brings almost 10 years of paralegal experience to this role, along with a wealth of community service work with organizations such as Care, Hands on Atlanta, and the Empowerment Council. On the weekends, you’ll find Christan at a food drive, community clean-up, or at a workshop to help organize Atlanta’s communities. She also enjoys writing poetry, taking Afrikan Martial Arts classes, traveling, and relaxing with friends.
Administrative Assistant, Safe and Stable Homes Project
Sharlena Foster Administrative Assistant, Safe and Stable Homes Project
Sharlena is a native of Colorado. She originally attended Metropolitan College of Denver and is now pursuing a degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University. Having lived in Georgia since 2013, she first became involved with AVLF as a paralegal volunteer with the Saturday Lawyer Program. When not assisting clients in AVLF’s housing programs, she enjoys going to the movies and cooking.
Staff Attorney, Equal Justice Works Georgia Housing Corps Fellow
Crystal Redd Staff Attorney, Equal Justice Works Georgia Housing Corps Fellow
Crystal works on matters across the Safe and Stable Homes Project, including individual representation in landlord-tenant, eviction, and wage cases; supporting the work of the SWON sites; and focusing on special initiatives to address anti-displacement and affordable housing efforts.
Prior to joining AVLF, Crystal was the inaugural Noah Parden & Styles Hutchins Fellow and a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, GA. She litigated class action cases challenging unconstitutional conditions in jails and prisons, reaffirming the right to counsel for indigent clients, and addressing violations of the 4th Amendment. She also litigated matters involving juvenile justice, debtor’s prisons, and reforms to the criminal justice system. Before attending law school, Crystal was an educator in Atlanta Public Schools for seven years and worked as a mitigation investigator on capital cases at SCHR for four years. Crystal earned her law degree from Harvard Law School. She received an A.B. in History from Harvard College, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University.
Jamie Perez Director, Safe and Stable Families Project
Jamie is the director of the Safe and Stable Families Project, which includes the Domestic Violence, Family Law, and Guardian ad Litem programs.
Jamie currently serves as a member of the Fulton County Family Violence Task Force. Prior to joining AVLF, Jamie practiced family law at Holland Roddenbery LLC. She is the former co-chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyer Division’s Family Law Committee. She obtained her JD from the University of Georgia School of Law, where she served on the Georgia Law Review. She received her BS in journalism from Ohio University. She went on to work in sports marketing for four years before attending law school.
Jamie is an active member of the Atlanta Bar Association and State Bar of Georgia and has been recognized for her contributions to the legal profession and survivors of domestic violence. Jamie is the recipient of the 2017 Family First Award from the Atlanta Bar Association Family Law Section, the 2017 Kurt Kegel Memorial Scholarship from the State Bar of Georgia Family Law Section, and the 2015 Kerry Harike Joedecke Atlanta Lawyer of the Year award from the Atlanta Council of Younger Lawyers.
Joel Correa Staff Attorney, Safe and Stable Families Project
As the Safe and Stable Families Staff Attorney, Joel focuses on offering assistance and representation to survivors of domestic violence. He also manages the Safe Families Office within the Fulton County Courthouse, a walk-in clinic that is co-run with the Partnership Against Domestic Violence.
Prior to joining AVLF, Joel was the Supervising Staff Attorney at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless. There he oversaw the organization’s legal program and provided representation to individuals and families at risk of becoming homeless or who were already experiencing homelessness. He provided counsel in numerous areas, including landlord-tenant law, family law, disability law, and wage and labor disputes.
He received his J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law and his B.A. in International Studies and French from Berry College. Joel is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and is fluent in Spanish and French.
Cynthia Padilla Pearson Legal Navigator, Safe and Stable Families Project
Cynthia is the Legal Navigator for AVLF’s Domestic Violence Program. She is based inside the Safe Families Office, which is co-run with the Partnership Against Domestic Violence. As the first point of contact within this walk-in clinic, Cynthia greets and directs survivors to the appropriate person or area for assistance.
Cynthia graduated with a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Georgia State University in 2008. She also received an M.S. in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University in 2011. Cynthia has a strong background assisting survivors as they navigate the courthouse. She has worked in just about every courtroom in Fulton County as a Victim/Witness Advocate in the District Attorney’s Office and serving as a Judicial Case Manager for a Senior Judge. In her spare time, you can find her at a local spin class or reading the latest publications on balanced and restorative justice.
Program Coordinator, Safe and Stable Families Project
Lilli Crowe Program Coordinator, Safe and Stable Families Project
Lilli is the Program Coordinator for the Safe and Stable Families Project, which allows her to work within both the Domestic Violence and Guardian ad Litem programs.
You can often find her at the Safe Families Office inside the Fulton County Courthouse. When not assisting survivors of domestic violence to obtain temporary protective orders, she coordinates volunteer attorneys for each of the programs she works in. Lilli graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Georgia, where she minored in Sociology. When she’s not navigating the wild west of the courthouse, she likes to explore the world and read.
Camille Millar Social Worker, Safe and Stable Families Project
Camille Millar is the Social Worker for the Safe & Stable Families Project.
Camille graduated with a B.S. in Social Work from Georgia State University in May of 2013. She quickly became an Americorps Vista, volunteering in Spartanburg, South Carolina from 2014 to 2015. Through this program, Camille worked at an outpatient drug treatment center. She also worked directly with adults suffering from behavioral health issues, improving health outcomes by connecting people to various community resources.
Mary Koenig Social Worker, Safe and Stable Families Project
Mary is a social worker in the Safe Families Office, connecting survivors of intimate partner violence with resources and support after they obtain a temporary protective order.
Before moving to Atlanta and joining AVLF, Mary graduated with a Master’s in Social Work and Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina. She is dedicated to working against gender-based violence and supporting survivors, and has worked in violence prevention education, program planning and evaluation, and hotline advocacy. In her spare time, she bakes pies and plays drums.
Audrey Bergeson Staff Attorney, Family Law Program
Audrey Bergeson is the Staff Attorney for the Family Law Program. The Family Law Program serves survivors of domestic violence, who have been assisted by the Safe Families Office, with their long-term family law legal needs. As the Family Law Program Staff Attorney, Audrey manages the program, provides direct client representation, and pairs clients with experienced family law attorney volunteers.
Prior to joining AVLF, Audrey practiced family law as an associate with Smith & Lake, LLC. Before practicing with Smith & Lake, Audrey was the 2013-2015 Hunton & Williams (now Hunton, Andrews, Kurth) Pro Bono Fellow, where she provided pro bono legal services to clients and served on the pro bono committee. Audrey is an honors graduate of Emory University School of Law, where she received the Custer Tuggle Award of Excellence in Family Law, and she received her B.A. with honors from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Audrey is a member of the Atlanta Bar Association, DeKalb Bar Association, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and Stonewall Bar Association. Audrey is the Co-Editor of the YLD Review, a publication of the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division (YLD). She is a member of the YLD Executive Committee, the 2018 recipient of the YLD Service to the Profession Award, and the 2017 recipient of the YLD Service to the Community Award. Audrey was recently appointed by the State Bar President to the State Bar’s Committee on Children and the Courts.
Andrea moved to Atlanta in 1985 and attended St. Pius High School before attending Georgia State University and Valdosta State University.
Andrea has worked in the legal field since 2002 with a focus on family law since 2014, when she was introduced to AVLF as a volunteer. Through the course of her working career, Andrea always enjoyed and thrived on helping others and found her true calling in assisting AVLF clients as a volunteer. Andrea is extremely excited and honored to have the opportunity to assist in an even greater capacity moving forward as part of the AVLF team.
The majority of Andrea’s personal time is devoted to her 9 year old girl/boy twins. She also enjoys exercise, spending time outdoors (as long as it’s not too cold), and enjoying all that Atlanta has to offer – including festivals, sporting events and concerts. Andrea is a member of Saint Thomas More parish, where her children also attend school.
Starkeisha Tucker Legal Navigator, Safe and Stable Families Project
Starkeisha Tucker is the Legal Navigator with AVLF’s Safe and Stables Families Project in the Safe Families Office. This office is co-staffed with Partnership Against Domestic Violence. Starkeisha assist survivors with the appropriate resources or directs to appropriate areas for assistance.
Starkeisha received a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She continued her education and received a Juris Doctor from Charlotte School of Law in 2016. She continues her legal journey of service by working with AVLF and pursuit of practicing law in Georgia. Outside of work she enjoys local concerts, spending time with family, and exploring Atlanta.
Marty has served as the Executive Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation since 2001. He came to the Foundation after nearly 20 years in private practice in Atlanta. Marty had admired the Foundation since its inception. His strong commitment to serving underprivileged communities made the chance to promote equal access to civil justice irresistible.
Michael became AVLF’s Deputy Director in January 2014. Previously, he served as the Director of Housing and Consumer Programs, managing a variety of programs that provide legal representation to low-income individuals. He litigated in the areas of landlord-tenant law, unpaid wages, debt-defense, and debt collection.
Michael came to AVLF after working as a staff attorney for the Georgia Legal Services Program, representing low-income Georgians in a variety of civil matters. Prior to coming to Georgia, Michael was a fellow at Public Justice, P.C., a national public interest law firm in Washington, D.C. He also spent several years working for change in the Texas state legislature. Michael, who holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He spent his final year of law school studying at Harvard Law School and clerked for the Honorable Catherine C. Blake of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore before beginning his legal career.
Libby is originally from Columbus, Georgia. She has served the Atlanta community for almost 17 years in various capacities. Previous to working at AVLF, Libby worked as the Director of Institutional Advancement at Atlanta Technical College. Prior to this, she raised funds for ovarian cancer research and served in fundraising and community outreach roles at Visiting Nurse|Hospice Atlanta. She was a communications assistant in the Office of Governor Roy E. Barnes after graduating from Clemson University with a B.A. in Political Science.
A Decatur native, Lauren has six years of experience in digital marketing, content strategy and event management with significant expertise in the nonprofit and music entertainment industries.
Lauren has managed all aspects of community outreach, branding, and events from development to implementation. She is experienced both in developing unique, high-impact communications plans and grassroots initiatives.
Before joining AVLF in January 2017, Diana worked for StoryCorps in Atlanta, where she developed community partnerships and facilitated interviews. Prior to that, Diana served as the interim Program Director of the Wren’s Nest House Museum, designing and overseeing program curriculum, including a one-on-one writing mentorship program.
In her role as Grants Manager, Diana manages all of AVLF’s grant tracking and reporting needs. She’s excited to be supporting dynamic programs that directly impact local families.
Diana holds a certificate in Nonprofit Accounting and Intro to Fundraising from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.
As AVLF’s Communications Associate, Ashleigh helps Lauren Frazier with website content development, social media outreach, and various other forms of communication with our fiercely compassionate supporters. Ashleigh is ever-eager to share the remarkable stories of our clients, and the impact of AVLF’s staff and volunteers on our community.
Before joining AVLF, Ashleigh was a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey. She holds a Bachelor’s in English and Linguistics from the University of Georgia. She is also a performance artist, and can occasionally be seen performing movement pieces, poetry, and combinations of the two around Atlanta and beyond.
As the Development Associate, Akshaya Garimalla offers administrative support to AVLF’s development team, and handles a variety of tasks related to institutional and individual giving. She is excited to be a part of the Development team during AVLF’s First Annual Campaign!
Prior to her experience at AVLF, Akshaya has worked with various nonprofits as a passionate defender of social justice in Little Rock, Arkansas. Some of her most recent work experiences include internships at Planned Parenthood, Heifer International, Lucie’s Place, and Just Communities of Arkansas.
Akshaya is a proud graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and holds a B.A. in International Studies with an emphasis in the public sector. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her cats and cooking.
Mariah Pyrce is the office assistant with AVLF where she helps with administrative, human resources, and IT tasks. She is a Kennesaw State University alumni where she got a B.S. in Organizational Communication. In the past, Mariah has worked in event planning with Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Epting Events, and the City of Duluth. When she’s not in the office, Mariah can be found hiking, watching movies, or playing board games with her family.